For many reasons, masks are widely used around the world, from the ancient time. The use of masks in religious customs or festivals can still be seen today. From the time of ‘Yogadya Puja’, ‘Kalika Mukha’ or ‘Ghamvira’ dance, masks are very popular. The famous dance form, ‘Chhau Nach’ of Purulia was originally the festival of ‘Shiv Gajan’. On the marriage of ‘Buro Shiva’ of Nabadwip, masks were also being used. Moreover, this mask is one of the most entertaining elements. Children are still happy wearing masks. For this reason, one of the attractions of the ‘Charak’ or ‘Rath-er mela’ is children’s masks made by local potters.
Katwa is one of the oldest cities in Burdwan district. Many potters from here used to make masks for sale in ‘Shiva Gajan’ and ‘Rather Mela’. Materials are used like old newspaper, gluten and chalk powder. Like many other folk-arts, Mask-makers also left making masks. But Ananta Das from Kashiganj was determined to keep going on with mask-making. Later, his nephew Kartick Das and Now Kartick’s two son, Dipankar and Naru is still working on mask-making. They are the one who trying to keep the track on.
Kashiganj or Harisavapara, a one room house and Kartick Das is making masks. At season, they even have to forget eating and bathing, to fulfil the requirement. Dipankar is a graduate, but still doing this. At the pick time, even their mother also helps them making masks. They make masks of horned ‘Asur’ (devil), spider man, Chhota Bhim to Jocker. And various types of Hindu God and Goddess, and many types of animal masks they also make.
Making of masks is quite difficult job. First they make a dice. Then they make layers with old newspaper, chalk powder and gluten. They make about five or six layers. And then keeping the shape with finger pressure is quite artistic. After drying, they reshape and cut it. After layering with clay, they start colouring it. First the base colour, and then it poured with various types of colours. After finishing all the tasks, they make the hole of eye, with a hot iron stick. And they finalize it, tying a rope in it.
These types of masks are sold in 20 to 30 rupees per piece. They even get orders from drama and theatre groups. Though this seasonal business is not bad, but is not enough for making it profession. People like Kartick Das and his sons, never believe in ‘more income’, but they love to make the children happy with their job. They love doing it.
Interview with the Mask-Makers.
Photo Courtesy : Team Koulal